Have you ever read something that was so beautifully written that you had to stop reading for a moment to just think about it? I love that. Sometimes it’s the idea behind the writing, and sometimes it’s the writing itself — the way the author has put together sounds and syllables and meanings. It’s that moment that I’ve tried to capture with my latest piece, “Contemplation.”
This is a departure from my earlier nursery rhyme and fantasy work. I wanted to make a more realistic figure, and I wanted the expression to be more nuanced.
I spent a day or two drafting a full-size guide (she’s about 18″ tall, by the way) so I could to ensure I got her proportions right.
I was able to lay the armature right up against the drawing to be sure I got her limbs the right length, and I could compare the sculpted head and hands and feet to the drawing. It turned out to be a good system, and she came together pretty well.
Until . . . .
. . . it came time to dress her.
Did she ever turn out to have a mind of her own!
See, having been focused on historic costumes for all of my other dolls, I wanted this one to have a more timeless feel. I was strongly influenced by dolls like this one by Tamara Pivnyuk:
And this one by Tatiana Baeva:
And this one by Victoria Minenko:
And I just love this one. I keep seeing it on Pinterest, but I don’t know who the artist is. If anyone knows, please tell me so I can give credit:
Anyway, I was thinking the costume for Contemplation would have some of the same sort of dreamy, lost-in-time, not-quite-of-this-world feel to it.
But I was wrong.
I made her a skirt. A beautiful, multi-layered dupioni and velvet skirt in shades of rust and burgundy and muted green. With pleats and raw edges.
But when I put it on her, I swear she refused to wear it. Okay, I realise most of you are giving me a virtual side-eye right now. And I promise, I didn’t actually hear her talk. But honestly — this doll had already taken on a personality of her own, and she wasn’t having anything to do with the beautiful silk skirt.
So I took the skirt back off her and decided to start with the top. I made her a bodice. It was a deep, rich iridescent silk chiffon. It had tiny little pleats across the bosom and intricately cut sleeves. It was gorgeous.
She hated it.
She wanted to wear denim cutoffs. And a black tee shirt. And thigh-high stockings. Seriously.
So, after a couple more failed attempts to do something timeless, I gave in and made her thoroughly contemporary. She got her cutoffs and her tee shirt and her stockings. I gave her a pair of ankle boots. She seemed happy.
Then I made her a perfectly nice cardigan. You know, long and slouchy and maybe a little bit hipster. And you know what happened next.
She refused to wear that too. She wanted a scarf.
Who knew an 18″ doll could be so bossy?
But she turned out to be right. Now that she’s done I can’t imagine her being anyone other than who she is. And once I accepted that she was going to be contemporary, I actually enjoyed working on the costume. I liked making the shorts. I cut up a pair of toddler jeans and I was able to use the flat-felled seams for the side seams of the doll’s shorts.
But the original seams were too bulky for the crotch seams, so I faked the stitching with paint. I think it came out pretty well!
I also liked making the boots. This was definitely the most complicated footwear I have attempted so far, and while they’re not perfect, they’re not too bad.
I also kinda like her hair. It’s really messy, but that seems right for her.
It’s a lot like my own hair. A whole lot. In fact, it is my own hair. Early in the summer I had several inches cut off, and I asked my hair stylist if I could take it home with me. She didn’t bat an eye (she knows me). She just swept it up and put it in a bag. And now I’ve finally had a chance to use it!
So there she is. Contemplation. I hope you like her. I do. In fact, I like her so much that my next doll is going to be contemporary too. Stay tuned!